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Djokovic aims to end Nadal's long Monte Carlo reign

updated 1:12 PM EDT, Sat April 20, 2013
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is seeking to end Rafael Nadal's impressive winning run in Monte Carlo.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is seeking to end Rafael Nadal's impressive winning run in Monte Carlo.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rafael Nadal will play Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final of the Monte Carlo Masters
  • Eight-time winner Nadal beats world No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in first semifinal
  • Top-ranked Djokovic sets up rematch of last year's final, beating Fabio Fognini
  • Fed Cup champions Czech Republic losing 2-0 against Italy in semifinal

(CNN) -- The scene is set: the world's best tennis player against "the King of Clay."

"I'm not going out there to play my best; I'm going out there to win," Novak Djokovic said after setting up a Sunday final showdown with eight-time defending champion Rafael Nadal at the Monte Carlo Masters.

"Whenever you play Rafa, you know what to expect -- you expect the toughest challenge possible on clay. I'm ready for that. I'm very happy that physically, mentally, emotionally I have been improving as the tournament was going on. Each day I feel better on the court, more confident."

The world No. 1 brushed aside Italy's Fabio Fognini on Saturday, winning 6-2 6-1 in less than an hour to give himself a chance of avenging his defeat to the Spaniard in last year's title match in the principality, and also that of 2009.

Read: Nadal survives quarterfinal scare

"Of course, I will have to be on top of my game," the Serbian said. "I will have to be focused and motivated from the start to the end in order to have any chance of winning against Nadal. I need to have a very optimistic mindset in order to get a win."

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While Djokovic is returning to fitness after injuring his ankle on Davis Cup duty earlier this month, Nadal's longterm knee problems seem to be behind him after earning his fifth consecutive final appearance since his February comeback.

The 11-time grand slam champion was tested for the second match in a row before defeating France's world No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3 7-6 (7-3) in Saturday's opening semifinal in one hour and 36 minutes.

"Playing five tournaments in a row after injury, being in five finals in a row is great," said Nadal, who has won three of four of those so far.

"It will be very tough. Djokovic brings you to the limit of your game if you want to have chances to win. I know I have to play better than what I did today and yesterday to try to win tomorrow. I have to play more aggressive."

Read: Tennis is clean, says Tipsarevic

They have not met since Nadal won last year's French Open final -- his record seventh title on the red clay of Roland Garros -- and the Spaniard holds a 19-14 career advantage in their matches.

"These kind of matches are special all the time. I am very happy to have the chance to play these kind of matches another time," said Nadal, whose only defeat in 49 appearances in Monte Carlo was back in 2003.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic's grip on the women's Fed Cup title slipped on Saturday after Italy took a 2-0 lead in Palermo.

The Czechs triumphed in 2011-12 after Italy won it two successive times, but face an uphill battle in Sunday's reverse singles after world No. 7 Sara Errani beat Lucie Safarova 6-4 6-2 and Roberta Vinci upset eighth-ranked Petra Kvitova 6-4 6-1.

Kvitova, who also lost to Vinci last weekend in the final of the Katowice event in Poland, must now beat last year's French Open runner-up Errani to prevent Italy taking an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the best-of-five rubber.

"I hope I can cancel this match in my mind and have a free mind for tomorrow," Kvitova said. "I'm still getting better, and it's obviously tough to be 100% ready to play these girls on clay but we'll see."

Slovakia also need just one more point to reach the November 2-3 final after taking a shock 2-0 over Russia in Moscow.

Dominika Cibulkova beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7 6-1 6-4, and then Daniela Hantuchova defeated Maria Kirilenko 6-2 6-4 as the Slovakians seek to reach their first final since winning the 2002 title.

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